Becoming Seasoned

In my other life, I'm a cook. In that life, it's all about my new wok lately. A carbon steel wok costs around $30, and doesn't look like much when you bring it home. It looks pretty flimsy, actually. But then the work begins. The work of "opening" and seasoning your wok until it develops a black patina, a natural nonstick surface that will last for years and get better over time.

I can't help but think of all the metaphors embedded here. One of the prescriptions for seasoning a new wok is that it needs to be used every day on high heat--woks left in the cupboard might rust, and they definitely won't develop the coveted patina.  I've been lucky enough lately to do coaching work with a few folks who are serious about this seasoning business, serious about becoming more mature, about getting out there and making mistakes, using what they know and opening to the world.  

Here are a few things I'm noticing about "seasoned" people and what it's like to be around them:

  • They take their work very seriously without taking themselves too seriously.
  • They are focused on excellence, even if it means some of their decisions might be unpopular.
  • They aren't in danger of rusting from disuse. They're out there--engaging, making mistakes, paying attention.
  • They have often experienced deep loss in their lives and grown from it. 
  • They don't feel sorry for themselves, but they're not shy about expressing frustration if they need to.
  • They are intentional about creative pursuits and outlets in their lives.
  • They have a high ratio of questions to statements.
  • They take risks and know how to be spontaneous, but they've befriended structure and discipline.
  • They are deeply kind.

These aren't the sorts of things you can wake up on Monday morning and do. They say a wok takes 4 or 5 years to become fully seasoned. What?! That seems like forever to this impatient chef. But I have a feeling it's worth it.